Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Board Game Review
Star Wars: The Deckbuilding Game
WBG Score: 6.5
Player Count: 2
You’ll like this if you like: Star Realms, Hero Realms, Ascension
Published by: Fantasy Flight Games
Designed by: Caleb Grace
By Steve Godfrey
In Star Wars the deckbuilding game you’ll be acquiring cards, building a collection, selling things for a benefit and holding on to the rest and hoping that no one gets rid of your precious wares…..wait, are we playing as Jawas? I think they may have missed a trick with the theming of this one!
Use the rules Luke!
Give each player their ten starting cards, lay out the force track and put the cube all the way to the rebels side. Place the outer rim pilot deck out and then place six cards into the galaxy row (the main card market) any cards with the Empire symbol are placed facing the Empire player and the rebel ones facing the rebel player. Any neutral cards have orientated so both players can see them. Give each player their starting base deck and have them place their starting base face up and place the other four bases to one side. In subsequent games you'll take all ten bases but in your first game you only have the four specific bases stated in the rules book. Then each player draws a five card hand. The Empire player goes first.
When you play cards from your hand you can trigger any abilities on the cards. Cards will also have on them any number of three icons. A blaster icon will indicate attack points, a cube will give you credits and the circle will give you force. You gather your accumulated credits into a pool and you can spend these at any time on your turn to buy cards from the row. The twist being is that you can only buy cards loyal to your faction or any neutral cards. Bought cards will go into your discard pile and the cards will be immediately replaced.
The force symbol will move the force tracker that many spaces towards you. If you start your turn with the force track all the way on your side you gain a credit. Where the force is on the track will matter for some cards. If the force is with you i.e. on your side of the track then certain cards will give you extra abilities.
The aim of the game is to destroy four of your opponents bases (three in the starter game) so attacking is the name of the game. When you attack you can assign your attack to your opponents base. If they have any capital ships in play then they have to be damaged/ destroyed before bases can be hit. You can also use your attack to take out opponents cards in the galaxy row. When you do this, not only will you remove a potentially good card from your opponents options but you will also gain the reward depicted on that card.
When you destroy a base it goes into your victory pile. Your opponent doesn’t reveal a new base till the start of their turn. On their turn they can search through their base deck and choose the base they want to reveal next. Aside from the starting base, all bases have their own special ability.
Size matters not…..except in deckbuilders.
So I want to preface this by saying that I am not the biggest fan of more traditional deck builders like Dominion or Legendary. I prefer to have deck building incorporated into something like in Clank or Undaunted for example. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them at all, a few have certainly slipped through. Harry Potter deck builder and Hero Realms, both of which I play only with my eldest daughter. I also remember enjoying Shards of infinity when I played it. I’m also aware that this is being compared to Star Realms a lot, but aside from a couple of plays on the app and one play with the cop-op version a few years ago I’ve not really had enough experience with it to do the same.
For the most part Star Wars is your standard deck building fare. Gain credits, buy cards, attack your opponent, rinse and repeat. But this one has a few tricks up its Jedi robes.
The fact that you have your own factions is a great idea and a great way to keep things feeling thematic. I think as much fun as it would have been to be able to entice Grand Moff Tarkin to the rebels or have Chewbacca turn to the Empire because they told him that they actually liked the holiday special and that his family were a delight, it would have instantly taken you out of the theme.
Knowing your opponent can’t take certain cards does, at first appear to mute that “I hope they don’t take that card I really want” tension. However, the addition of the neutral cards takes up that slack. What you do get in its place is a different type of worry in between turns. Now your opponent can attack and take out the cards you really want and they also get an added benefit to boot. So now, not only are you worrying about them taking out your cards, but you're also concerned about the bonus they’ll get from it. It’s a nice touch and adds another way of cycling cards in and out of the row, especially if there’s nothing you want to, or can buy.
The force track works as a nice tug of war between players. That one extra credit each turn can make a difference, especially in the early game if you can keep the force all the way on your side for a few turns. If your opponent is playing smart then they won’t let you keep it there. Keeping the force with you can be really important if you want to do just that little bit extra on your turn but also more importantly, stop your opponent from their extra benefits. The U-Wing for example gives three credits, but if the force is with you it also lets you heal three damage to a base, which in this game is huge. Just knowing that cards like that are out makes winning that war for the force just as important as attacking bases.
It’s all about that base.
Being able to pick your own bases gives you a nice amount of control and allows you to tailor the game to the particular play style you’ve adopted for that game. On the surface it’s easy to think that you should go for the base with the highest defence. But you'll probably get more of a benefit picking a base for a specific power. If for example, you're focusing on building up a powerful deck and keeping it slim, then Kessel will help you exile cards. On the rebels side, if you have a deck that makes your opponents discard cards then Yavin IV deals two damage to a base everytime they discard a card. In a starting game the rules give you four specific bases (other than your starter base) you can pick from. In a regular game you get access to all ten meaning you have a much wider choice and you can really tailor the base you pick to deck you’ve been building or vice versa.
Fear is the path to the dark side.
This game is quick. It says thirty minutes on the box and that’s pretty accurate and that’s if you're playing to all four bases. If you're looking for something to break out if you’ve got a bit of spare time then this is not a bad option.
Because it’s so quick though I never felt like I was seeing the full potential from the deck I’d spent my time building up. By the time I felt like I had a good deck of cards, it wasn’t long before the game was over and I probably had one really satisfying hand of cards. Now I will say that I’ve never been great at thinning my deck in deck builders so that last part may just be on me, but I also wonder that with a properly curated deck the game could even be over quicker? I personally never felt that there was a lot of synergy in the decks I was building. One of the things I love in deck building is when cards just trigger off of each other and you get those big, satisfying hands of cards. It’s one of the reasons I gravitate towards Hero Realms. I never really felt any of that here.
What I think hasn’t helped is that there’s still cards that I haven’t seen turn up in the row, even after quite a few games. I know Jyn Erso and the Millenium Falcon are in there but I’ve barely seen them come through in a game yet. Another casualty of the speed of the game is that you only get through about a quarter of the deck each time. This can become even more of a problem if you’re not getting enough capital ships through the row. These are so important as a means of defence that if they’re not coming out, or they're not your faction/ neutral then your base is merely a sitting Bantha and will surely not last long after a couple of heavy attacks. If the ships aren’t coming out for you then it can feel even worse when your opponent is just throwing damage at you and you know that you’ve not even had the opportunity to defend yourself.
My other issue comes from the galaxy row I was praising earlier. Yes it’s a fun idea, but no amount of shuffling stopped us from having a row that had almost all of one faction's cards, and this happened a few times. I know that this is where the idea of attacking other cards in the row comes into play. You can even spend credits to buy off and discard neutral cards in the row with an optional rule, but more often than not I found it was more beneficial to put damage on my opponent's base. If I’ve got say, ten damage to deal (which you can potentially get just from Vader alone) and credits to spend, Surely it’s better that I damage their base than take out a card in the row on the off chance that it might get replaced with a card I can buy? More so if it’s unprotected because that's way over half of the damage done. This rings true even more in the late game when you’ve probably built up a powerful deck already and don't feel like adding to it.
As I said earlier, this style of deck builder isn’t necessarily my thing so this had a big job to do to win me over. But even given my love of Star Wars this couldn’t break through for me and the force just wasn’t with it. So it stands to reason that it’s leaving the collection then? Well no because my daughter loves it and as long as she’s enjoying it and wants to play it it’ll stay. It’s by no means a bad game and I'll happily play it with her when she wants to. But for me there’s too many things holding it back for me to want to grab it over something like Hero Realms.
I know that a lot of people are really enjoying it so If you’re in the market for a straightforward, quick deck building game and are a Star Wars fan then this may be worth a look. Other than that I’d put this firmly in the try before you buy camp.